DENVER — Meet the newest campaign issue for House Democrats: Todd Akin.
From Colorado to New Hampshire to Illinois, Democrats already are using the incendiary comments about rape made by the Missouri congressman and Republican Senate candidate as a political bludgeon. In interviews, news releases and tweets, they've blasted Akin for saying victims of "legitimate rape" are able to naturally prevent pregnancy and tried to tie their opponents to legislation he's supported.
Those moves might only be the beginning, as Akin has so far refused to drop out of the race despite pleas from top Republicans, including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the widespread condemnation of his remarks.
"People are disgusted and appalled," said Joe Miklosi, a Democratic congressional candidate in suburban Denver, who began tying his opponent, GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, to Akin within hours of learning about his comments this past Sunday.
Miklosi sent a tweet that read, "Mike Coffman and Todd Akin have been fighting side by side against women in Congress," and posted a video online that included footage of Akin praising Coffman on the House floor.
Coffman responded by calling for Akin to leave the race and decrying his rape comments as "wrong, inappropriate and hurtful to women across the country."
It's a scene repeated in House races nationwide, as Akin's comments on rape are playing a role in more than a dozen House races in battleground states – particularly those in which the incumbents joined Akin last year in co-sponsoring a resolution that would have redefined rape as "forcible rape."
Most Democrats and women's groups objected to such language, because it suggested there are different severities of rape.
In New Hampshire, Annie Kuster rapped one of the Democrats' top targets, GOP Rep. Charlie Bass, saying she was "disappointed" Bass hadn't yet called for Akin to leave the Senate race. Bass quickly did so. In Illinois, another Democratic challenger, Cheri Bustos, called on her opponent, GOP Rep. Bobby Schilling, to return a $2,000 donation from Akin. Schilling did so and issued a statement expressing his disgust with Akin's remarks.
"As a father, a husband and a close friend to people who have been scarred by the evils of rape, I could never stand with someone who said something so contrary to our basic human values," he said.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Pat Kreitlow had made an issue of GOP Rep. Sean Duffy's support for legislation defining "forcible rape" even before Akin's comments. That criticism now has new life, Kreitlow said.
"People are simply amazed there are elected officials who would take these positions, to redefine rape," he said. "We were hearing about it in Wisconsin before Akin said this, and of course we're hearing a lot more about it now."
Duffy, meanwhile, followed the path of other Republicans in calling for Akin to drop his Missouri Senate bid and repudiating his comments.
In trying to link Akin to their opponents, Democrats are following a time-honored campaign tradition. When a controversial statement or issue percolates in one race, the party sensing an opportunity will invariably try and make it an issue in as many races as possible, said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.
"This is politics 101," Pitney said. "You try to tie your opponent to an unpopular one on the other side and let them figure it out."
Pitney questioned for how long Democrats will be successful in making Akin's comments an issue, but Democrats have some reason to believe that it's an election winner to highlight Republicans who oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
In the swing state of Colorado, voters have twice overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures that would have outlawed abortion in all cases, and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet won a tight Senate contest in 2010 in part by highlighting Republican Ken Buck's views on abortion.
This year, Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who represents a suburban Denver district, is fending off a challenge from wealthy Republican beer magnate Joe Coors. After Akin's rape remark, Perlmutter reminded voters that Coors once financially supported a "personhood" measure in Colorado and tied Coors to Akin.
"Why won't Joe Coors condemn the recent `legitimate rape' remarks of Rep. Akins that even Mitt Romney criticized?" Perlmutter said in a news release.
Said Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi, "Joe completely disagrees with Rep. Akin's comments."
Jackson reported from Washington.
Follow Henry C. Jackson at and Kristen Wyatt at
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Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.)
"Well, I thought his comments were a little bit outrageous," she <a href="http://www.kjzz.org/content/1208/gov-brewer-akin-comments-little-bit-outrageous-doesnt-call-candidate-drop-out-race" target="_hplink">told KJZZ's Mark Brodie</a>. "I'm not in a position to [decide] whether it's right for the party to pull funding, I mean, those people there raise the money, they get to spend it however they wish."
"As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country," said Romney in a statement. "Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race." Earlier, from an <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/314452/romney-akins-inexcusable-comment-robert-costa" target="_hplink">interview with the National Review</a>: <blockquote>"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney said. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."</blockquote>
Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)
"He should be ashamed of himself to be talking about it in that way," Christie said. "It's stunning to me that somebody who's offering themselves for high office like that would have those kind of thoughts and use that kind of language."
Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.)
From <a href="http://mountpleasant.patch.com/articles/gov-scott-walker-says-missouri-senate-candidate-todd-akin-should-get-out" target="_hplink">Patch</a>: <blockquote>Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that Republican Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin should drop out of the race after Akin made controversial comments about rape and pregnancy. "Yes, he should step down. Those comments were ignorant at best and outrageous," Walker said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Sturtevant.</blockquote>
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.)
"He's got to seriously decide what's in the best interest of the party, what's in the best interest of the state of Missouri, and frankly, at this point, given that flat wrong statement, whether he can win," McDonnell <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/bob-mcdonnell-todd-akin_n_1818906.html?1345568504" target="_hplink">told The Huffington Post</a>. "I think there was a belief a month ago, when it was just he and [incumbent Sen. Claire] McCaskill head to head after he got the nomination, that it would be a hard-fought competitive race, with Romney at the top of the ticket and up double digits, that this would be a race that would be winnable for the Republicans," McDonnell said. "To say things that seemed to be so flat wrong and out of touch with both science and the people, I think it makes it very difficult at this point for him to win."
NRSC Chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape ... The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Campaign
"Gov. Romney and Congressman (Paul) Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. "Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/314452/romney-akins-inexcusable-comment-robert-costa" target="_hplink">Romney said</a>. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
"What he said is just flat wrong in addition to being wildly offensive to any victim of sexual abuse. Although Representative Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election," said McConnell, according to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-mcconnell-suggests-todd-akin-consider-his-options-20120820,0,5243455.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
"As a husband and father of two young women, I found <a href="http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/scott-brown-calls-for-todd-akin-to-drop" target="_hplink">Todd Akin's comments</a> about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong. There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin's statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri."
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)
"Whether he has mispoken or whether he has a position that we would have trouble agreeing on, I don't know that. I do know him and I do know his family, and I'm impressed with what they've accomplished. So that's the best I can do with what little bit I know," <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDsQkjnQx5Y&feature=youtu.be" target="_hplink">said King</a>. And later: "I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way," he <a href="http://www.kmeg14.com/story/19324372/rep-steve-king-on-the-campaign-trail" target="_hplink">told KMEG</a>. "I'd be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)
"I have to agree with those, including Republicans, who have said he should give up his race for Senate," said Van Hollen on <a href="http://video.msnbc.msn.com/newsnation/48728017/#48728017" target="_hplink">NewsNation with Tamron Hall</a>.
Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)
"Like Joe Biden's comments last week, I find Todd Akin's comments made Sunday to be just as outrageous and offensive. Such insulting and offensive remarks from Joe Biden and Todd Akin have no place in our political discourse," said Mack in a <a href="http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2012/08/connie-mack-cosponsor-of-forcible-rape-bill-links-akins-legitimate-rape-with-bidens-chains-.html" target="_hplink">press release</a>.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)
Talent, who once held the Senate seat Akin is running for, declined to endorse Akin on Monday. "It's a decision he has to make," Talent said when asked whether Akin should step aside, according to the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-todd-akin-stay-in-senate-race-20120820,0,2849040.story" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. "I can't agree with anything [Akin] said," Talent later clarified.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
"Now, Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here. The <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/08/dnc-email-ties-romney-to-todd-akin-132522.html" target="_hplink">real issue</a> is a Republican party -- led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages -- if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women. Really, it's deeply concerning that Republicans continue to support legislation that is, quite literally, dangerous for women. Mitt Romney famously says he would "get rid of" federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he had the chance. His running mate, Paul Ryan, was one of more than 200 Republican cosponsors of a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape. Can you imagine -- the same Republican House that refuses to pass a jobs bill jumped at the opportunity to make life harder for victims of rape? And what do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? They've been trying to distance themselves from it -- but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions."
Sarah Steelman, Akin's Former Primary Opponent
Terry O'Neill, President Of The National Organization For Women
"That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. ... That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women," she told the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/todd-akin-rape-comments_n_1810362.html?1345468189" target="_hplink">Associated Press radio</a>, characterizing the remarks as "flat-out astonishing."
Mike Murphy, GOP Consultant
Michelle Malkin, Conservative Columnist
Joe Scarborough, Host Of MSNBC's "Morning Joe"
"There is a rule," <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/scarborough-reacts-to-akins-rape-remark-conservatives-neglecting-to-choose-the-most-electable-candidate/" target="_hplink">he [Scarborough] continued</a>, "that we conservatives have followed for a long time, and it's the 'Bill Buckley Rule.' You elect the most electable conservative. The person who is the most conservative and who is the most electable is the one you put on the ticket. That's the part of the equation that we're losing over the last three years. And it's making Harry Reid the majority leader."
Bryan Fischer, Conservative Radio Host
Tom Perriello, President Of Center For American Progress Action Fund
Petition By The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
<blockquote><a href="http://dccc.org/pages/denounce-todd-akin?source=2012.08.20_kw_all" target="_hplink">Sign your name to call</a> on Speaker John Boehner to remove Rep. Todd Akin from the House Science and Technology Committee. Republican Congressman Todd Akin told a Missouri news station: "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare... If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Someone who believes nonsense like this has no part overseeing science policy. Tell Speaker Boehner to immediately remove Rep. Akin from the House Science and Technology Committee.</blockquote>
Susan B. Anthony List
<blockquote>"Congressman Akin, a longtime pro-life leader, has said he had misspoken, and no one is arguing that rape is anything but a despicable, horrible crime. "Abortion supporters like Sen. Claire McCaskill are trying to use this issue as a smokescreen to hide from their radical, pro-abortion records that are out of step with the majority of Missourians and the American people. On the issues of taxpayer funding of elective abortion in Obamacare, protection of unborn girls being targeted in the womb solely because of their gender, and whether children capable of feeling pain in the womb should be protected, President Obama and Senator McCaskill have been on the wrong side, showing that they favor abortion on-demand, for any reason, up to the moment of birth, subsidized by the taxpayers. "If President Obama and Senator McCaskill care to focus on extreme positions, it is time for self reflection. It is time to answer the question why this president has recently rejected bans on gender selection and late term abortions. "Todd Akin, on the other hand, has a record of voting to protect human life. His opponent does not. Congressman Akin has been an excellent partner in the fight for the unborn."</blockquote>
Tea Party Express
<a href="http://www.teapartyexpress.org/5205/tea-party-express-urges-rep-akin-to-step-down" target="_hplink">Tea Party Express</a>, the nation's largest tea party political action committee, is urging Congressman Todd Akin to resign his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said, "Congressman Akin's comments this weekend are not just unfortunate and inappropriate, but they are distracting from our main goal of defeating Claire McCaskill and taking the Senate gavel out of the hands of Harry Reid. At a time when our national debt is approaching $16 trillion, job growth is stagnate, and the Senate has failed to pass a budget in over 3 years, we need a candidate that is ready to help lead the charge for conservative solutions. "One of the lessons we learned in 2010 is that we need candidates who are not only conservative, but are capable of putting together a strong campaign against liberal opponents. Akin's frequent 'Bidenisms' are distracting from the important issues at hand. "It is critical that we defeat Senator Claire McCaskill in November, but it will be too difficult to achieve that with Todd Akin as the conservative alternative. He should step down and give conservatives a chance at taking back the Senate in November," Kremer concluded.